Early pioneers

Heywood Tanner-Tremaine

Paul Tanner-Tremain writes the following:

You are right in that my late father Heywood Tanner-Tremaine(HTT) was instrumental in founding the V&V branch at Greystones.  The original Veld and Vlei School was at Sedgefield near Knysna. His three sons, (my two elder brothers and I) had all attended the Outward Bound Mountain School at Loitokitok on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, as school boys in our last year( 1959, 1961, 1963), when we lived in Kenya.  All three of us successfully completed the OBMS courses and reach the summit of the mountain.   My two brothers duly left Kenya for the UK after school to higher education.

At the end of 1963, my parents, sister Lynda and I left Kenya for South Africa and settled in Estcourt, when dad set up a VW franchise.  Lynda went to Estcourt High, and I went to the University of Natal in Durban for a couple of years before returning to Estcourt to help my parents in their VW business. While at varsity, I had joined their Mountain Club, and did a lot of rock climbing on the krantzes at Monteseel near Inchanga at the valley of 1000 hills, and a few weekend excursions into the Drakensberg, climbing various peaks near Cathedral Peak and Giant’s Castle.

In 1966, HTT was a charter member for the founding of the Estcourt Rotary Club. In 1967 he became President of the club, and he was instrumental in getting the Rotary Youth Exchange started for his district, and the establishment of the Veld and Vlei school at Greystones.  The Greystones property was once the ‘up country’ house of Sir Frederick Moor, premier of Natal, hence the area there being known as Moor Park.  I am not sure what the arrangement was with V&V occupying the house and grounds, whether it was donated or they got it rent free. There are still Moors living on the farms around Estcourt.

I remember spending weekends out there, helping to plan, build and test the obstacle courses prior to being open for the first course, which I think was in 1968. I did not enjoy the ‘tunnel’, particularly after we found a puff adder which had taken up residence!   Prior to that first course, I also scouted out the ridge from the school down to the Bushman’s river at Africa Pool for any suitable abseiling and climbing sections that we could use, with varying degrees of difficulty.  If you attended the course, you will probably know where I mean, and I could have been your instructor at the time.  I didn’t do all the courses up to mid 1973, but I did assist with the rock climbing and map reading sections on about eight or nine of the courses.  I know we experimented with one 2 week adult course where the big 120kg-150kg rugby players did not believe that the climbing ropes and I could hold them if they fell.  I belayed myself at the top, and asked two of them to get onto the rope at the same time, and of course, the belay and rope held them quite successfully.  Trust earned!  I gave up instructing in early 1973, soon after our first child was born.  We had a patrol member who actually totally froze on one of the climbs and would not move he was in such a panic.  I got one of the others who had reached the top, belay me and I went down to the young lad to get him moving.  He lashed out and I fell about 20 feet before the belay lad got control of me. The youngster was ‘broken out of his fear’ and he managed to climb back to the top, as did I, battered and bruised.  Time to call it quits as I had a family to consider.

I did a fair amount of the basic map reading sessions, including taking patrols out blindfolded,  in the Kombi, and dumping them with a compass and a couple of maps, and saying ”See you later” back at the camp.  The maps usually did not include the map that showed the dam or Greystone, but the adjoining ones.  One evening one patrol had not arrived, and we found them at the White Mountain Inn at Ntabanhlope!  The other favourite was the walk around the dam with instructors at checkpoints located on the map.  Then of course, the final expeditions up into the ‘berg.  One I do remember was being dropped off at Injasuti, overnight in Fergie’s Cave and Marble Bath’s Caves, then the trek up over ‘Cloudlands’, the Martial Eagle stream to Bannerman Hut, then up the pass to the top.  The December 1968 course had me as a ‘resident’ instructor, and I fell ill with what turned out to be jaundice while going over Cloudlands with a couple of the patrols. The other instructors took over my patrol and continued up the berg, and I broke all mountaineering rules, by continuing from Bannerman’s down to the Giant’s Castle camp on my own, where I knew Bill Barnes and Keith Micklejohn who were the parks board rangers.  Keith got me back home and into hospital in Estcourt. ( lots of stories of berg trips with Keith and the fun we had).

Sailing.  V&V managed to get 6 LJ Sprints which were based on the Enterprise training yachts, at very little or no cost.  They were delivered to the Boating club at the dam, and Henry Hyde’s brother, Mike, and I sailed them from there up to the Moor Park landing spot in three trips, cadging lifts back to the Boating club in between.  Great fun!  They were very stable little yachts and simple to sail.

People : HTT was chairman of the local V&V and others that I can remember on the board were Jack Swan as the resident camp manager at Greystone, Alan Webster who I believe emigrated to Australia, Henry Hyde I think since deceased, George Cross who was the mayor of Estcourt, Godfrey Symons farmer and Rotarian in Estcourt,  and possibly a few others.  I do remember John Hall and Dick Garstang as instructors, and there must have been more, but I cannot remember the names.  Somewhere I have some photos of Greystone and odd ones taken on the courses, so I will have to dig them out.  My father died in December 2003 in Estcourt, a couple of years after me and my family had emigrated back to the UK in 2001.  My late eldest brother helped clear the house, so I don’t know what happened to all my dad’s paperwork, probably consigned to the bin!

I am not sure when V&V in Estcourt closed down, but the Greystone buildings and grounds were later used by a Church group for some years, and I think it is now used as an adventure camp.

What a trip back into the past!

Best Regards and keep well,


Paul Tanner-Tremaine

Hampshire, England

Early pioneers

Jack Swan

The following article is written Hugh Solomon who attended G8 in July 1970 and returned several times in the 1970s to assist.

Jack Swan was the first and only full-time and salaried warden of Veld and Vlei, Estcourt. He and his family were given the use of the well-known homestead on the grounds of Greystone (the home shown in the main photograph at the introduction of this blog). I was at Hilton College with Patrick Swan and Peter Swan. In fact it was Peter who told me all about Veld and Vlei, and from his exuberant and entertaining descriptions of the course I just knew that I had to attend. I pulled out my fountain pen, found a Croxley pad, and wrote to the organisers asking if I could book on the July course 1970.

Fast forward to November 2021, I arranged to meet Patrick Swan at his home in Kenilworth, Cape Town in order to ask him about his dad’s involvement with Veld and Vlei back in the 1970s.

He told me that as a family back in the 1960s they lived in Seven Oaks, near Greytown, Natal. Jack Swan was the manager of Harden Heights Wattle Company. One day in 1968 he simply announced, over the evening meal, that the family was going to move to Estcourt. It was delivered as a matter of fact, with no further discussion, and took Patrick completely by surprise. And within days the Swan family had packed and moved to Greystone, with Patrick driving a truck loaded to the hilt. Jack Swan had been recruited by the Johannesburg head office to run the Veld and Vlei, Estcourt, operation. He was a wise and suitable choice as he had good experience in this field of outdoor education for schoolboys. He had founded the Enterprise Club at Hilton College and led several expeditions over school holidays. I am not sure how long Jack Swan worked for Veld and Vlei but Patrick alluded to a financial collapse and his dad was left without a job. Grinaker Construction was busy with the N2 highway near Estcourt and offered Jack a job. He handled this with aplomb and furthered his career. Later he worked for Jeffares and Green, Consulting Engineers.

While at Greystone, Jack discovered an Iron Age walled village site dating back to 1100 AD, one of the oldest Iron Age sites in Natal, which was subsequently excavated by Professor Oliver Davies of the Natal Museum. The site, om Makhabeni hill, overlooks Moor Park.     


Early pioneers

Henry Hyde

Written by Hugh Solomon, trainee on G8 July 1970

Henry Hyde was very involved with the Greystone course over many years, and so too was his wife Jo. As a local businessman in Estcourt he published a weekly newspaper which I think was called the Estcourt Gazette and had a retail stationery store in the town. Henry and Jo had four children, Edward, Catherine, Elizabeth and Charles. Henry gave of his time to Veld and Vlei generously and served as warden several times. He and Jo emigrated to Australia, and the children are now scattered around the globe.  

G22 December 1976: Back row Darryl Friedman, Trevor Dugmore, Dick Lavers, Chris Davies, Kim Becker, Clive Truter.

Middle row: Iain Kelman, Geoff Ward, Dave Carr, Jo Hyde, Henry Hyde.

Front row: Hugh Solomon, Mark Bischoff, Robbie Bidgood, Theo van der Walt.

I got to know the Hyde family better when I volunteered my services at the G13 December 1972 course to manage the kitchen and food side of things. I thought that my training as an army chef would equip me adequately for the task. It didn’t really, but fortunately I had Jo Hyde in the wings, bringing her much better and broader experience at Veld and Vlei to the fore. An unsung hero was Isaac, the cook (see photo below). I recall that he was employed as a cook at a school boarding-hostel on the Natal south coast, and was available over the holidays to work at Veld and Vlei. He knew his job backwards, and I was grateful to let him take full charge of the cooking operations.

     Isaac the cook at Veld and Vlei, Greystone, Estcourt

Year unknown, mid 1970s

Back row: Jan, Jonathan Harley, Trevor Mundy, __ , Neil Dummer, Rob Benion

Front row: Murray Robertson, Henry Hyde, Alan Webster, Ian Watson, Geoff Ward, Hugh Solomon

Murray Robertson, above photo, is the son of John Robertson who was the headmaster of Treverton College in Mooi River, Natal. Over the years a strong link was to emerge between Treverton College and Veld and Vlei, Greystone. From 1974 onwards the standard 9 class of each year attended a course.

The following photos were taken on G13 December 1972

I recall those old Bergens rucsacs being very uncomfortable!

Some memories of G8

Accommodation was in a row of army-surplus bell tents located on a strip of lawn. Each patrol of eight trainees shared one such tent. Sleeping bags were arranged around the central support-pole of the tent. Built- in groundsheets had not yet come into fashion, so each trainee had a groundsheet allocated to him. It was very crowded in the tent as we also had to find space for our suitcase in there, and a place from which to hang our clothes. The ground was lumpy and hard and made for a difficult night’s sleep. Being winter, it was bitterly cold at night with a white frost on the grass outside.

The showers were in an old cowshed close by. Water was heated by a fire, often stoked by the boys themselves. Hot water was scarce, and didn’t last long. The tail-enders in the shivering queue often had to brace themselves for a hasty wash.

The pre sunrise wake-up call was the sound of a railway sleeper being struck with an iron bar by one of the instructors. It was our signal to leap out of our sleeping bags and dress hurriedly into gym shorts, tracksuits, and running shoes with a towel slung over our shoulders. Patrols lined up in their groups in the dark, and a short warm-up PT session followed, with the warden or instructor on duty call out the commands: the normal star-jumps and running on the spot for example. We were measured on our alacrity to be there quickly, and laggards were quick to realise that a patrol had to work as a team. Once all the patrols were there and ready, we set of in patrols, being timed by our respective instructors for the run down the winding path to the Wagendrift dam. Our breath frosted in the bracingly cold morning air. The sun was barely rising when we reached the edge of the dam some ten or fifteen minutes later. Ice on the moored dinghies hinted at the freezing temperature of the dark, lapping waters. We shed our clothes and dashed naked into the water. It was unnervingly cold! The idea was to get wet, submerge and then scramble out madly for one’s towel and clothes. Ten seconds or less is all one could muster. Thereafter each patrol had to assemble, and was then timed again on the jog back up to Greystone.

There were no flushing toilets at Greystone. These only followed a few years later. My memory of a row of stout gumtree poles over a long open trench has fortunately dimmed over the years. There was absolutely no privacy and using the raw, basic facilities was not for the faint of heart. I was, in 1970, well acquainted with a long drop toilet but this was pushing the boundary a bit too far.

Trainees were given a “recommended clothes list” prior to attending a course, and each item had to be marked with the trainee’s name. Clothes that needing washing were handed in at an appointed time and place and laundered by a team of domestics and then left to dry on the lawns in the sun.

Meals were taken in a veranda off an old farm building. Canvas walls were rolled down in wet or cold weather. The kitchen was at one end, and through a serving hatch the bowls of the daily meals were collected by the individual patrols who served themselves at their respective tables. In the evening trainees would dress in “collar and tie” for dinner. This translated to anything from a school blazer, to a sports coat and tie. It at least meant that trainees showered and changed into fresh clothes. I found, after the first week, that a polo-neck woollen jersey and an army greatcoat sufficed and it was a lot warmer.

Am I correct in recalling paraffin lanterns which we carried to our tents at the end of an evening?

Hugh Solomon G8   

Patrol names



Dick King



Early pioneers

Veld and Vlei office bearers 1975

Officers of the Trust

National President J.R. Case

Vice President J.L. Omond

Treasurer J.L. Maltby

Executive Director J.R. Crossan

Administration Council

C.S. Amoils,              B. Davidson       J.W. Hall        F.E. Meynell               J.C Wash

A.L. McL. Baillie       W.S. Douglas    H.E.T. Hyde   F. Murray-Johnson   A.S. Webster

R. T. Butlin               D. Everett          I.M. Kelman   J. Poppleton              P. Weinberg

B.L. Bernstein          D.W.J. Fanning H.W Kohler    A.R. Sherman             R.P. Willcox

G.F. Cross                 M.B. Gush         J. Kruger        J.H. Stodel                    D.A. Wood 

D. J. Campbell         G.M. Hall           G.G. Meek     H.Tanner-Tremaine    C.J.C. Wynne-Edwards


H. Tanner-Tremaine chairman, C.S. Amoils, W.S. Douglas, D.W.J. Fanning, G.M. Hall, H.E.G. Hyde, I.M. Kelman, H.W. Kohler, G.G. Meek, A.R Sherman, A.S. Webster

Changes lives

I enjoyed my experience on course G8 1970, but I must admit I got more pleasure and satisfaction from the three times that I returned in the 1970s to assist in the running of the camp. I felt more like an Old Boy and I loved the camaraderie. I had matured into the role. Looking back I suspect that some lads attending Veld and Vlei were reasonably happy to be there but soon left the memory behind them, whilst others to this day carry a fondness of thought, and enjoy reminiscing and swapping yarns.  

Let me share the story of my younger brother Neil Solomon. He attended the winter 1972 course, the one which was cut short after ten days because a trainee was diagnosed with contagious meningitis. Neil was slightly built as a schoolboy and wasn’t as robust, sporty or strong as his classmates. At Greystone he found that he had a talent for rock-climbing and for teamwork on the assault course. His light frame but agile upper body strength gave him an edge. It was with rock- climbing that he realised that he was really good at something. It gave him a new found confidence. At Natal University, Pietermaritzburg, he joined the mountain club, and went on to become chairman. He went to Treverton College as a student teacher whilst studying for his HDE, and taught there from 1978 to 1988 and pursued his love of outdoor activity in an educational setting. He put his inimitable stamp on the school by initiating an Outdoor Pursuits Award programme and the Post-Matriculation course, to give Treverton an aspect of education that was missing in his own schooling.  

After leaving Treverton and before moving to Zambia to become the founder headmaster of Chengelo Secondary school Neil wrote a textbook for the school called Reach Beyond which was specifically for the Outdoor Pursuits Award programme.           

I picked up my copy of Reach Beyond recently and he writes “Let me make it quite clear that I would not even be writing this book were it not for Veld and Vlei. It is almost with religious fervour that I extol its magnificent efforts towards helping young people (such as Neil Solomon aged 17 years). Veld and Vlei changed my life – it’s as simple as that.”  Such a testimonial does not get much better.

Neil died in 1997 of a brain tumour and cancer.

Hugh Solomon G8 

Early pioneers

Jack Case

– Jack Case –

Jack Case was born in England on 1 November 1900 and was educated at St Andrews College, Endfield. After qualifying as a chartered accountant he went into commerce and journeyed to Burma to join Burma Oil Refineries and Oil Fields. While out in the far East he organised the demolition of the refineries so that they would not fall into the hands of the Japanese and he took part in the evacuation of the Burmese people to India and walked the 3000 miles of that epic journey. Jack was awarded the OBE for his war efforts and he came to South Africa in 1942 in order to organise a project to produce oil from oil shale.

In 1954 Jack retired from active business life and devoted most of his spare time to Rotary International in the specific field of world understanding, and he travelled extensively throughout  the world talking about Rotary, its aims and its objects. He had been an enthusiastic worker for Veld and Vlei since its inception and was chairman for many years of the Knysna Committee and served on the council and devoted his time to organising fund raising for the Trust. Following his election as President of the Veld and Vlei  Adventure School Trust in 1975 he devoted a tremendous amount of time to the job.




Course G6 – Winter 1969

Stef Coetzee writes:

I attended Greystones winter 1969, sponsored by Alan Webster. I am still in touch with Alan, who lives in Australia.

I was terrified of heights. I recall being stuck halfway up the rock face with ‘muscle bounce’ in my legs, clinging on for dear life. An instructor from Natal University, Mr Garstang, talked me through making it to the top.

I have memories of waking up in Injisuthi cave and being overwhelmed by the rolling mists and beauty of the green hills and valleys of Natal. I still have my ‘most improved trainee’ prize book from back then. 

The camp. Donald Mellar (in his EHS rugby jersey) outside our tent, Ross Patrol.

Greystone from afar – trudging back after first-aid exercise

Ross Patrol returning from an exercise. Washroom on the right, Wagendrift dam in the background

Ross Patrol preparing to set off

Ross Patrol on top of Ntabamhlope

Cathkin, Sterkhorn, Tower, Amphlett

Ross Patrol with the escarpment in the background

Course G30 – Winter 1981

Philip Powell writes:

The winter of 1981 was a transformative experience for me. I have often wished that in later years I’d been able to put something back, to share that unique and character-forming experience with other young people.

I learned invaluable lessons that prepared me for so many future elements of my life experience and I have so much to thank Veld and Vlei for. I was the recipient of an Abe Bailey scholarship award that sponsored my attendance, while all of my fellow Maritzburg College course mates were sent as future school prefects and sponsored by the school. Let’s just say I didn’t fit into that category! My Merit Pass on the course came as a surprise to many teachers at the school. 

In summary, Veld and Vlei had a profound impact on my life and I will remain eternally grateful to the men and women, led by the fearsome and often very grumpy Henry Hyde, who sacrificed their time and effort to make us better people.

Maritz Patrol G30 winter 1981

Sergie, Philip Powell, Jackie, Eddie, Chin

Sagran, Reverend John Uys, Tokkie